Blog Back: Healing and Embracing Change After Breast Cancer

LynnFolkmanLynn Folkman, manager of our volunteer programs, wrote her Blog Back post  about her personal growth after reaching her 5-year “cancerversary.”  Read her story and check out our past Blog Back columns.

“Feels like some kind of wild ride but it’s turning out just to be life going absolutely perfectly.”

Every morning, while having my espresso, I view a piece of artwork with the above statement and allow it to resonate in me.

In March 2009, I was diagnosed with stage I ER, PR and HER2-positive breast cancer. I have always been a believer that things happen for a reason. Although certainly at the time, I could think of no good reason why breast cancer and chemotherapy would be on that list. As 2014 began, I was rapidly approaching my 5-year mark and found myself filled with a variety of emotions: joy, sadness, anxiety and fear.

With any milestone event, it seems my nature to attach expectations. I thought about how much my life has changed. I often express to people that many parts of my life are unrecognizable from 5 years ago. Approaching March brought all sorts of emotions to the surface and encouraged me to pose the question; did being diagnosed with breast cancer really happen for a reason?

When I was newly diagnosed in 2009, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea who LBBC was or what they did. I attended a conference with my sister where they were exhibiting. My sister, being my advocate through every step of the way, encouraged me to pick up some of their publications. I did not want to talk to anyone at the table and I slipped them quietly into my bag and scurried away. Later that evening, in the privacy of my home, I read Understanding Insomnia and Fatigue and Understanding Your Emotions; reading them calmed my thoughts and made me realize that what I was feeling was normal and that I was not alone. At that moment, I began to gain a little bit of control of my life in what felt like an uncontrollable situation.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was really hard for me to get off the treadmill of my life. However, with the side effects of treatment fatigue being overwhelming, I found myself with no option but to really slow down. During that time of rest and introspection, I knew the life that I was currently living did not feel like my own. I had felt that way long before my diagnosis. I realize that this may seem like a bizarre statement, but, for a while I had felt as though I was living someone else’s life, busy fulfilling the expectations of others. Deep inside me, I was longing to make changes in my life; however, I did not know what that would look like or how I was going to accomplish that.

When I concluded active treatment, I felt changed on the inside, so it came as no surprise to me that my old life felt like it no longer fit. It reminded me of the child’s game, with all of those shapes and trying to find what fits where, no matter how hard you try, you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. The difference was, after breast cancer, I could no longer pretend – that drained too much of my energy. The level of fatigue that I experienced during breast cancer made me view my energy as a precious commodity and a limited resource. I was the only one in charge of how I would choose to spend my energy. Seems simple enough, but before breast cancer, my life was full of “shoulds” and it did not occur to me that I had a choice. The question now imprinted in my mind and body was, “How much energy do I have and how do I want to spend it?” Breast cancer freed me from the confines and the rules that I had previously placed on myself.

I knew I wanted to find a way to give back through my experience. Fast forward to 2011, I was trained as a LBBC Helpline volunteer and then joined the LBBC staff in 2012. I immediately knew that this felt like the right fit for me. Finding a way to give back has allowed me to continue my healing. On a daily basis I interact with wonderful individuals that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Everyday, I feel I get so much more back than I give.

My ongoing healing continued when I honored the changes that had occurred and admitted to myself that I was not the same person as before my breast cancer diagnosis and therefore needed to accept and embrace change. So what a wild ride life has been thus far, not the one I had planned, not the one I had expected and yet, exactly where I am meant to be right now and that’s a good place to be…for the me that my experience with breast cancer and LBBC has helped me to discover.

3 thoughts on “Blog Back: Healing and Embracing Change After Breast Cancer

  1. An excellent post! I’m only three months into treatment for triple negative breast cancer with no primary site, and I would give anything to be posting about my five-year anniversary! I hope to be there one day, and be there as graciously as Lynn.

  2. Pingback: Living In The Moment: The Best Lesson Cancer Has Taught Me | LBBC's Blog

  3. Helpful… thank you. I’m surprised with as many people who are survivors of breast cancer that there seems to be so little talked about here. I’ve felt many of these same emotions… before being diagnosed. I call it the need-to-please-disease! It’s been two years since my treatment ended and I’m looking for ways to be helpful to others; especially those newly diagnosed.

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